Hot coffee and biscuits
Every time I visit Rachel and Greg, they make me a coffee. Or more specifically, Greg makes us coffee. He does it old style – no fancy coffee machines, just a kettle, glasses, strainer and coffee.
It’s a bit of a ritual and it takes a while but I don’t mind. Their household has got that special quality to it where time slows down and nothing needs to happen soon. Usually only houses of retired people feel this way and I happily allow myself to soak in that relaxed, soothing atmosphere.
While Greg is busy with the coffee, Rachel is preparing his favourite biscuits. Next we all sit down and chat. Coffee is hot and the biscuits are yummy.
Rachel addresses her husband ‘love’ and gently touches his hand as she speaks to him. He doesn’t say much but every time he looks at her, there is an ocean of love and warmth in his eyes.
I’ve known Rachel and Greg for a few years now. They are both in their sixties and they’re close friends of mine. They have been together for many years and they inspire me as a couple every time I see them.
As a general rule, I don’t have a lot of faith in marriage. Usually the moment people get married, sex frequency starts to reduce, the romance ends and they start taking each other for granted. They don’t look at each other with that special spark in their eyes anymore and the partner is over time downgraded from ‘the love of my life’ to ‘the annoyance of my life’.
Everybody loves the initial ‘honeymoon’ period of the relationship but past the first two years, people seem to forget just what a special thing it is to be in love with someone special.
Value of kindness
As I’m dipping my biscuit in hot coffee while waiting for it to cool down, I watch the interaction between Rachel and Greg. Each time I see them they remind me of the incredible value of kindness in a long-term relationship.
A lot of people are capable of affording amazing acts of compassion and kindness towards strangers but do not bring the same level of love and understanding into their daily interaction with a spouse/partner.
Alain de Botton describes it beautifully in his talks. He tells us that we should treat each other as we would treat a child. When a child throws a tantrum, we do not get upset and accuse the child of spiteful intentions. We assume the child is in pain, distress or tired. We comfort the child and offer it compassion and soothing touch.
But when our partner acts in an upsetting manner, we get offended and assume that they are being deliberately hurtful.
Shift your relating
Let’s try offering each other more kindness and compassion in our everyday lives. Instead of jumping to conclusions and getting angry, let’s offer each other a deeper level of love and patience.
This change alone has a potential of creating an incredibly powerful shift in our relating.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: deep down nobody really wants to upset anybody else. Whenever your partner, or anybody else for that matter, acts in a way that seems unpleasant, it’s usually because they are having a difficult time themselves. It’s very likely that they are not even aware that you are perceiving their words and actions as upsetting.
So dig deeper and get to the bottom of things. Show heart and compassion by looking them deeply in the eye and saying “You seem angry/stressed/tired/frustrated/…, what’s wrong? How can I help you or make you feel better?”.
That kind of compassion and kindness can shift your entire day and in a long term – your entire relationship.
Show kindness and heart, not impatience and annoyance!
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